Hypnosis and Phobias Part 3

Symptom Substitution

This is a direct result of attempting to cure a person's phobia by not addressing the cause, but rather treating only the symptom - the phobia itself. The phobia can be thought of as an emotional and even physical reaction to the as yet unknown cause of the behavioural problem.

Because the cause remains, locked deep inside the mind of the sufferer, treating the symptom by various means such as forcing the person to face their fear in the hope that it will diminish with familiarity will only force the emotion back inside, where it will fester and eventually find another avenue of escape.

It is quite common for a claustrophobic person to be freed of their fear of enclosed spaces only for the symptom to substitute for the opposite - fear of open spaces and the person develops agoraphobia instead.

Of course, in the eyes of the therapist and their client, the original problem has been cured!

The Problem Persists

But the sufferer now has another debilitating problem to overcome. For a therapist to try to cure a phobia in this way and not recognise that symptom substitution has manifest in their client, they should seek advice. Should they then attempt the same approach to curing the new problem, they should be severely questioned as to their motives. Are they really trying to help that person?

Or are they trying to rescue their reputation?

The underlying cause of any phobia must be investigated and investigated thoroughly. By using psychoanalytic techniques with hypnosis as the catalyst to assist in memory retention, there is a very good chance that the patient will remember the traumatic incident (or series of incidents) from their past that caused the emotion to become deeply buried by their subconscious.

Finding the Root Cause

Only by remembering, re-living and re-experiencing the event or events along with the flood of emotion that accompanied them at the time can that person hope to remove the cause. The experience is known as a catharsis, or release of the emotion and fear and anguish and guilt that accompanied the traumatic event that became repressed.

Once this release has occurred, then the healing process can begin properly. Time and a release from the transference that the client will have entered with the therapist throughout the therapy will see the problem truly diminish and fade. Of course, the memory of the traumatic even from the person's past will stay with them, but the emotion and the guilt, having been released, cannot return to cause them any further emotionally generated behavioural problems.

Transference will be the next topic on the agenda.

Terry Didcott DHP